First Pitch: The latest Sox newsrumorsspeculation

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First Pitch: The latest Sox newsrumorsspeculation

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

Welcome toFirst Pitch, aquick spin around the world of Major League Baseball . . . or at leastthe corner of it that most concerns the Red Sox.

ONE THING AT A TIME: Noticed that rumors about a replacement for Terry Francona have dried up in the last few days? That may be because, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com, the Red Sox have decided not to interview any candidates until Theo Epstein's status is resolved.

News on that front is non-existent, though analysis and opinion abound. Gerry Callahan's opinion? Epstein is gone. (Boston Herald) This man's opinion? Chicago had best be a destination and not an escape for Theo (csnne.com), since the pressure to turn the Cubs into a winner will be even higher than the pressure he felt here (if that's possible). Speier's analysis? That the Sox can draw on some of the lessons from their unsuccessful pursuit of Billy Beane in 2002 to guide them now.

When all that's done, then we can turn to the manager's chair. And John Smoltz says it won't be easy to fill it with someone as good as Tito. (csnne.com)

AND AFTER THAT . . . There are player issues to resolve, such as what to do with Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. (Boston Globe) Bill Chuck of Nation STATion knows what he'd do. (csnne.com) Hint: Think gold watches and retirement parties.

AND AFTER THAT . . . Focus will turn to improving the team on the field. And more and more, it's look like there'll be a left-handed ace -- CC Sabathia -- available on the free-agent market. (New York Post) But unlike 2007, when they were faced with a similar situation with Alex Rodriguez and said they were ready to let A-Rod walk, the Yankees aren't setting any artificial deadlines with Sabathia. (New York Daily News)

THEY'LL NEED IT: The free-agenttrade market may be the only place the Red Sox will find help this offseason, because it was a barren year down on the farms. (Providence Journal)

WE'LL BE WAITING: When asked if 2012 will be his last season, Mariano Rivera told the New York Post: "I will let you know".

NOW I CAN SLEEP AGAIN: Looks like Derek Jeter's romance with Minka Kelly is back on. (msn.foxsports.com)

IT'S COMING: Bud Selig isn't sure the baseball postseason will expand to 10 teams in 2012, but he sure sounds like it will eventually. (cbssports.com)

WHAT I MEANT TO SAY WAS . . . Stuart Sternberg does a little fence-mending (St. Petersburg Times) with the Rays' fans . . . all 35 of them. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

AND FINALLY . . . Surprised at the Sox' sudden September implosion? So was Jonathan Papelbon. (weei.com)

Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

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Bogaerts' "maturity is clearly taking hold"

NEW YORK -- Xander Bogaerts enjoyed a terrific 2015, his second full season in the big leagues.

He finished second in the American League batting race, established himself as a solid defender at short and generally showed immense promise.

The only thing he didn't do was show much home run power, limited to just seven homers.

This past spring, both manager John Farrell and Chili Davis expressed confidence that the home runs would come, and that they would come organically.

And so they have. In Thursday night's loss to the New York Yankees, a solo homer in the fifth by Bogaerts represented the only Red Sox run of the night in a 5-1 loss. It also gave Bogaerts 21 homers for the year, exactly triple his output from a year ago.

"The maturity is clearly taking hold," said John Farrell of Bogaerts' growth. "You start to get a couple thousand at-bats at the major league level, you're starting to understand your swing, you're picking out certain counts in which to leverage a little bit more. He's been able to do that.

"Home runs are up across the board. But with Xander in particular, he's physically maturing and he's maturing as a major league player as well."

Bogaerts took the advise of Davis and others and didn't set out to try to hit more homers this year. He knew they would come in time.

"Maybe not this quick," he said of the big increase, "but probably in the future, yeah. That's what I did in the minor leagues, so it's kind of something that I thought might translate to the big leagues, too."

Bogaerts is hard-pressed to put his finger on any on factor to explain the big uptick. After all, he didn't change his swing or his stance.

Rather, the homers came as a result of him understanding himself better as a hitter and consistently taking the right approach at the plate.

"It's just (a matter of) taking good swings in good counts," he offered. "Sometimes, you're looking for one. But overall, it's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose."

It hasn't hurt that he's surrounded by quality hitters in the Red Sox lineup, with Mookie Betts and Dustin Pedroia ahead of him earlier in the year, and now Pedrioa ahead of him and David Ortiz behind him.

In addition to seeing better pitches because of who's surrounding him, Bogaerts has also benefitted from listening to Ortiz, who watches his at-bats and offers advice when called for.

Still, most of the credit belongs to Bogaerts himself, who has grown into his power naturally -- just as his manager and hitting coach forecast.

Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

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Quotes, notes and stars: "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving"

NEW YORK -- Quotes, Notes and Stars from the Red Sox' 5-1 loss to the Yankees:

QUOTES

* "It seems like everybody was happy that I'm leaving." David Ortiz, unaccustomed to ovations and cheering at Yankee Stadium.

* "I thought he threw a high number of strikes. There was good swing-and-miss to his changeup and he took the opportunity and showed well." John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "It's just taking good swings in good counts. It's just being a more mature hitter and looking for the right spots to pick and choose." Xander Bogaerts, who has tripled his homer output since last year.

NOTES:

* With his fourth-inning homer, Xander Bogaerts tripled his home run total from last year, improving from seven to 21.

* The season series between the Red Sox and Yankees ended with the Sox winning 11 of the 18 games.

* The Boston bullpen has given up eight runs in the last two nights after allowing only seven this month before Wednesday night.

* The Sox suffered only their second sweep of the season. They were also swept by the Tigers in July.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. has reached base safely in his last 13 games.

* Junichi Tazawa has contributed seven straight scoreless outings.

* Robbie Ross Jr. allowed a season-high three walks -- all in the same inning.

* Henry Owens has a career ERA of 8.53 against the Yankees.

* David Ortiz went hitless (0-for-11) in his final series at Yankee Stadium.

STARS:

1) CC Sabathia

Sabathia turned back the clock and looked like a far younger version of himself, pitching into the eighth and allowed just a run on four hits while striking out eighth.

2) Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury had a hand in the first Yankee run -- walk, stolen base, run scored -- and doubled home the second run in the fifth inning.

3) Xander Bogaerts

The Sox had little offense on the night, but Bogaerts smoked a solo homer in the fourth to account for their only run.